Those you love, know how to hurt you. Those you love, know what to hide, because they know what is unforgivable to you. Now that I know what Seth hid from me, I want the secret to be the lie. I don't want to kill him. I don't want to leave him. I guess that is why they say there is a fine line between love and hate. I love and hate that man with such passion, that it damn near hurts. But now, as we face down our shared enemies, as we are lead right back to an explosive discovery about my family, and to the night Seth and I parted ways, we will both be exposed in every way. And it's time for me to decide if I plan to love Seth Cage for the rest of my life, or kill him, before he kills me.
***Part three of the three part Poison Kisses Serial****
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About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed Inside Out series. In addition, both her Tall, Dark and Deadly series and The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today lists.
Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books that have been translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones's suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.
Prior to publishing, Lisa owned a multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Read an Excerpt
Three years ago, the day Seth became my would-be assassin ...
Seth and I stand in the gardens of the fifty-million-dollar Davenport family penthouse in Manhattan, mimosas in our hands, a good twenty people around us. And while the people we're forced to mingle with are quite stuffy, the females in the crowd certainly don't turn a blind eye to Seth. And I must say, he's oozing an exceptional amount of alpha hotness today, his short blond hair accenting his strong and intense blue eyes. His fitted, ridiculously expensive navy-blue suit is matched with a tie that is also that same shade of blue. It had replaced his first choice, which had been silver. Said silver tie is now tied to the bedpost, in the apartment where we've played Mr. and Mrs. for three months. I, too, had been tied to that bedpost only an hour ago, with Seth's mouth doing insanely wonderful things to me.
I'm in the same prim white dress that had landed me on the bed, tied to that bedpost, after Seth had given me one of his intense blue-eyed stares and told me that I looked prim and proper and that he needed to taste the woman beneath that façade. I've decided I really like this dress. As for the man, I really love him, and I do so despite knowing that a CIA agent should never dare such frivolous emotions. It's a reality proven by my father, who has told me often that love kills, saying it while right in front of my mother.
Shoving aside that unwelcome thought, I refocus on our mission: convince this snobby group of guests, that we're worthy of "The Circle." The Circle being an elite group of investors that look out for their wallets, and not always with the best interests of America in mind. One particular Chinese entity is of special interest to the agency, and therefore to us.
"How many more of these events do you think we'll have to attend before the Davenports decide we're worthy of 'The Circle'?" I ask, wisps of my long brunette hair, which I've piled on top of my head after he'd tangled it into a mess, fluttering with a welcome breeze.
"I have a good feeling about today," he says. "And my feelings are always right."
He's confident, and has proven he has reason to be, but sometimes, my Mr. Jones needs to be brought down a notch. "So you always say. Care to place a bet?"
He steps closer to me, that cedar and spice scent of him teasing my nostrils. His voice is low, seductive. "Does it include a tie and a bedpost?"
"I was thinking more of the museum," I say, knowing quite well that he prefers to watch paint drying on wood. "If you lose," I add, "you have to go with me and actually try to like it."
"As long as I also get the bedpost and the tie."
My lips curve. "It will be a hardship, but I'll endure."
"And if I win the bet?"
"Name your prize," I say, quite flippantly by intent, the inference being that he will lose.
Those sexy, brutal, wonderful lips of his curve. "I get to spank you."
My rejection is instant. "I don't do spankings."
"I get to spank you," he repeats, his hand on my hip as he pulls me closer. "I'll make you like it. Just like I know you'll make me like the museum." His eyes brim with mischief. "Take the bet, Mrs. Jones."
"All right," I say, not about to back down. I even smile. "I agree to your terms." But my smile fades with the realization. "If you're right, you might not get a chance to complete the terms. We'll be split up for new assignments."
"No," he says, his voice firm. "They won't split us up."
"They will. The same way they brought us together."
He reaches up and swipes wayward strands of hair from my eyes. "I have a plan to stay together that we'll talk about tonight."
* * *
Hours later, Seth and I arrive back at our apartment by way of a driver, having finally escaped the Davenport luncheon, and not without a win. After months of earning the couple's trust, we've received an invitation to their private whiskey club tonight, as well as a promise that we'll meet someone important. That someone, we hope, is Ming, an elusive man who approves all Circle members, the man who the CIA wants to control, and we've been given certain damning information to do just that.
In other words, I lost the bet.
The spanking is now my debt to pay.
Side by side, Seth and I walk through the lobby of our high-rise apartment building, where we have lived all of the past three months as the characters we played at the Davenports, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and we do so with an erotic charge between us. And while we don't need much to stir such a charge, today comes with a little extra sizzle by way of a bet and a spanking. I don't do spankings. I don't do anything that gives someone else control, but then again, I don't do love, and I fell in love with Seth.
The car doors open and we enter the elevator, and while Seth punches in our floor, I intentionally go to the opposite wall from him, leaning against it. Facing him. He leans on the opposite wall, a lethal quality to him always, but when he's dressed like this, it's magnified, and he is lethal, in fact, deadly, but to any woman that sees this man, to me, he is pure sex.
His pale blue eyes meet mine, and just that easily I feel him everywhere I wish he were touching me. And when those eyes slide down my body, it's as if his hand is on me, scorching me with such heat that I swear my thin white dress might just incinerate. "Do you know what I'm thinking about right now?" His gaze is seeking mine again, capturing it, and me, like a bird playing in the wind, caught in a fierce gust that it never had a chance to escape.
Not that I want to escape.
Not from this man.
"Do you want me to guess?" I ask. "Or are you going to tell me?"
"Your adorable backside all rosy and pink from my palm."
I feel those words with a forceful impact, heat rushing over me that defies reason. I like control. I need control. It keeps me alive and he's suggesting — no, I've agreed to — an act that steals that away. And yet, with that rush of heat, my sex clenches and my nipples tighten. I am wet. I am aroused. And I have only one explanation. I trust Seth Cage. Completely. Like I have never trusted another person in my lifetime. To me, this is bigger than the "love" word we said weeks ago. His eyes narrow in on me, and I realize now that he knows this. He wants my trust. The truth is, I want his, too.
The elevator halts and we both push off the wall at the same time, moving to the center of the car to face each other, so close I can feel the warmth of his body shimmy against mine, but he doesn't touch me. And I don't touch him. It's this crazy game of anticipation we play together. His mouth, that sexy mouth that I know can be gentle one moment and punishing the next, curves ever so slightly. I've seen him smile like this, a tiger after his prey that is certain he will win. In this case, I am as well, and I'd like to say this is because I let him win. But the reality here is that he affects me, seduces me, owns me.
And with any other person, in any other situation, that would be a problem in need of an immediate solution. With him, in this situation, it's arousing. "I want to be inside you. Right now." he says.
"That's not a very gentlemanly thing to say in an elevator," I reply.
He shackles my hips and walks me to him. "We both know my gentlemanly qualities aren't the ones that make you wet, now are they?"
He's right. They aren't, though he possesses them and uses them, the contrast of proper Seth Cage and oh-so-improper Seth Cage only adding to his appeal. And as for him wanting inside me ... I've wanted him there since his fingers made their way under the table and into my panties at the Davenport lunch. I'm pretty sure I want it more than he does. And I'd turn the tables on him, make him wait as he did me, but that would mean making me wait, too, and that's just not going to happen right now.
The elevator doors open and he rotates us, his arm around my waist, hand at my hip, branding me while the flex of his fingers promises they will soon be in other, more intimate places. Our apartment is a short walk, and Seth opens the door. I enter first, the pale wooden floors that stretch the entire space, upstairs and down, beneath my feet. I never make it any further.
Seth catches my hand, even as the door shuts. The next thing I know, I'm pressed against it, and he's locking it, multi-tasking like a good agent. His hand slides under my hair, and cupping my neck. Pulling my mouth to his, while mine is on his tie, holding onto him. "Do you know how badly I want you?"
"Not badly enough," I say, "or you'd already be there."
His mouth closes down on mine, a deep thrust of tongue that consumes me all the more, because his hand is dragging my skirt up my thigh, sliding underneath to cup my backside. "I'm not going to spank you right now," he says, tearing his mouth from mine. "Not with tonight ahead of us, but I am going to fuck you." He slides his face to mine, his lips at my ear, his hand squeezing my backside, as he adds, "Lick you."
He doesn't give me time to absorb that delicious promise before he's pulling my dress over my head and tossing it away, leaving me in my heels, thigh-highs, lacy white bra, and panties. It hits the ground and he turns me to the door, stepping into me and forcing me to catch myself on my hands. His hands cover mine. "Now I'm going to show you what comes after the spanking."
"Most likely my anger."
"If you're angry when I'm done with you, sweetheart, I need to go to fuck school somewhere, and you already know I don't need lessons." His teeth scrape my shoulder, but I don't verbally react. But when his hand comes down on my backside, and he gives it a decent palm, I do. And even as I do, he turns me and he's on his knee on front of me. "That wasn't a spanking." He grabs my panties and yanks them away, his hands at my hips. "But this is what comes after the spanking."
His tongue laps at my clit, slowly, and then he's suckling me, and his fingers are stroking me. And he is so damn good at this that I can't remember why I didn't want him to spank me. When the first spasm of release hits me, I think I might just ask him to spank me. On my terms.
With this as my reward.
* * *
Only an hour before we're due at the Davenports' private club, I stand at the vanity of the master bathroom, dressed in a red silk robe while finishing my makeup. Seth stands next to me, in nothing but a towel after the shower we'd shared together, his muscular upper body flexing with the push and pull of his razor. This man is the Mr. Jones to my Mrs. Jones those around us believe us to be, but he has become so much more. He is my best friend and the man I love when I swore I'd never fall in love, for too many reasons to list.
He glances in the mirror, his eyes meeting mine, and only then do I realize I'm staring at him, when I am always aware of what I'm doing. It's a matter of life and death that I am, and usually not just mine. But then, that is what Seth does for me. He allows me to let my guard down. His brow furrows at something he sees in my eyes. "What is it?"
What is the matter? Missions don't make me nervous anymore. I've been living this my entire life. So why do I feel off, for lack of a better term, tonight?
He wipes off his face and turns to me. "Talk to me, sweetheart."
Talk to him.
For once in my life, there is someone who I actually feel comfortable sharing my real thoughts with, and I would right now, but his cellphone rings. He glances down at it where it rests on the vanity between us. "Danny," he says, and considering our third hand is planning the details of tonight's mission, he answers the call immediately.
I wait a moment, watching Seth to ensure there isn't a problem, and then Seth gives me a lifted hand to indicate all is well. For now. I hope that remains the case, and I do not like that the thought just popped into my head. The two of them start talking and it seems to be about tonight's surveillance, recapping the plan we already have in place. I face the mirror and run my hands over my hair, which is now long and brunette for this mission, my natural shade, before grabbing the hairspray and spraying it down.
Walking to the bedroom, I cross to where my dress lies across the king- sized bed, which I have shared with Seth every night since this mission began. Lust between us, starting on the plane here, and spiraling to something deeper. Already in a black lacy panty and bra set with thigh- highs, I slip out of my robe, then I put on the bra holster resting on the bed and insert the Ruger next to it. Next comes the black cocktail-style dress I've chosen for the night. The V of the cleavage hides the holster but is still sexy enough to distract an enemy, while remaining classy. Stepping into my high heels on the floor beside me, I grab my Chanel purse, where my phone and a blade rest, but not much more. Big purses are suspicious looking, and suspicious looking can be deadly.
I exit the bedroom and enter the cozy living room, with high ceilings and windows lining the front wall, creating an intimate, safe feeling that defies the danger of the CIA operation it helps mask. I love this space, but then who wouldn't love a ten-million-dollar apartment where they fell in love for the first time in their twenty-eight years of living?
Crossing the room, I open the double doors leading to an outdoor space and exit onto the balcony, the night air cool, if you consider the hot afternoon now behind us. Moving forward, I ignore the various chairs and sitting areas of the spacious balcony and head straight to the railing. My fingers grip the thick banister dividing me from the miles of air and gigantic drop just one more step would bring. My gaze sweeps the horizon now speckled with city lights, that glow mostly white, but there are the red and blue and even yellow ones as well. There's always a random color in everything, and in its randomness is always a story. I learned this from my parents in their laboratory. I've found it to be true in every aspect of life.
Seth is my personal random color, or maybe he's better described as my random bright spot in all of the darkness and death of this job. Yet tonight, as amazing as things are with him, as successful as today has been for us, I feel nothing but dread, a sense of foreboding like a heavy weight on my shoulders. It is a rare but familiar feeling that I do not ever welcome.
There is movement behind me, and I sense Seth even before I turn. But I do turn, finding him standing in the doorway, in another of the gray suits he favors, this one darker, his tie blue like his eyes.
Those blue eyes of his narrow on me and I know he knows something is wrong. Is there something wrong? He leans a shoulder on the archway, seeming to realize that question needs answering, and by me, silently offering me the space to understand it, and express it. I inhale and grip the railings behind me. "Do you remember me telling you that sometimes I get bad feelings?" I ask.
He narrows his eyes on me. "Yes," he says. "I remember. And you have one about tonight?"
"I do," I say, always direct and exact, as my father taught me to be, in all that I do, even if the feeling itself I'm experiencing is not.
He pushes off the doorway and straightens, walking toward me. I straighten as well, meeting him halfway, and then we stand there, looking at each other, existing together, when there was never a "together" for me before him. The mood serious, the air thick with the implication of what I've just said. "You're a scientist," he reminds me. "Feelings are not facts, but nerves are human."
"Nerves don't affect me unless I get one of these feelings. And I'm smart enough to know that facts alone do not keep an agent alive."
His cellphone buzzes with a message and he removes it from his jacket, glancing at the screen, then at me. "Danny has surveillance online and our car is waiting." He pauses, narrowing his eyes on me. "What do you want to do?"
"My job and well," I say, thinking of the man who runs The Circle, who we hope to come face to face with tonight. "We have proof Ming betrayed his best friend, who will assassinate him and everyone he knows if he finds out. He has someone we want, and we can trade. And no good agent lets the chance to get someone like Ming on a leash pass them by."
And so we make our way downstairs to a black sedan where Danny sits in the driver's seat. But this time when I enter the car, unlike my first night with Danny as our driver back in Rome, I have no friendly greeting for him. "Crickets," Danny says, after pulling us onto the road for the short eight-block drive. "What's up with the crickets?"
"Amanda's uneasy about tonight," Seth informs him, his hand settling on my leg.
"Something feels off," I confirm.
Excerpted from "Poison Kisses Part 3"
Copyright © 2018 Lisa Renee Jones.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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